Oxytocin: the new treatment for anorexia

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Oxytocin or the love hormone could be the next best treatment for anorexia nervosa. A new study has found that oxytocin alters anorexic patients’ tendencies to fixate on high calorie foods, and larger body shape.

A too common disease with no real treatment

About 1 in 150 teenage girls in the UK lives with anorexia. It is one of the leading psychological causes for death both as a suicide and as a repercussion of the disease. In addition to being painfully thin as a result of fixation on food and body size, anorexics tend to have high anxiety, depression and a prevalence of negative emotions.

Dealing with a range of social difficulties

“Patients with anorexia have a range of social difficulties which often start in their early teenage years, before the onset of the illness. These social problems, which can result in isolation, may be important in understanding both the onset and maintenance of anorexia. By using oxytocin as a potential treatment for anorexia, we are focusing on some of these underlying problems we see in patients,” explained Professor Janet Treasure from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry and senior author of the study.

When compared to a control group, those anorexics who took oxytocin by nasal spray fixated less on negative images shown to them than they did before taking the oxytocin.

Curbing the tendency to focus on the negative

“Our research shows that oxytocin reduces patients’ unconscious tendencies to focus on food, body shape, and negative emotions such as disgust. There is currently a lack of effective pharmacological treatments for anorexia. Our research adds important evidence to the increasing literature on oxytocin treatments for mental illnesses, and hints at the advent of a novel, ground-breaking treatment option for patients with anorexia,” said Professor Youl-Ri Kim, from Inje University in Seoul, South Korea, lead author of the study.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Psychoneuroendocrinology

 
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